One accidentally delivered letter, one misunderstood moment seen through a window, and one terrible lie tear apart the lives two lovers had hoped to share together. Their stories are wretched, but you’ll have to read to the end to see how far they’re taken from their happy ending.
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
When you see Thomas Hardy’s name on the author line, you know the book isn’t going to end well. In this tragic story of a young woman’s ruin after being sexually assaulted, Hardy navigates the terrible unfairness of the class divide and sexual morals of Victorian England.
Never Let Me Go
A world where every human has a clone raised purely to donate organs is pretty unsettling, but this novel is actually less about ethics than it is about living on limited time. The characters fall in love, have dreams, and set goals that they will never have time to fulfill.
Me Before You
This tearjerking love story tells the story of Louisa Clark, a woman living a normal life, until she decides to take a job as a caretaker. Will Traynor is wheelchair-bound after an accident forced him to abandon the glamorous life he knew. Their story asks impossible questions and presents difficult choices. Tissues are a must-have.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
When Bruno’s father is commanded by the “Fury” to oversee “Out-With,” Bruno is forced to move to Poland. Lonely, he’s jealous of the children in striped pajamas he can see from his window. The horror of Auschwitz is even more harrowing when contrasted with the innocence of a child.
This supernatural novel comprises a distressing and brutal exploration of slavery and racism, and a discussion of the extent of motherly love. It’s not an easy read, but its unflinching dissection of a true and terrible history is powerful, relevant, and important.
From the first page, we are told that when William Stoner died, “few students remembered him,” his colleagues “speak of him rarely,” and his name “evokes no sense of the past.” Then begins a book of unbearably hopeful ambition, as Stoner chases the life we know he will never achieve.
A book with a sad ending can ruin your whole day. When you’re invested in a group of characters and they don’t get their happily ever after, it can be hard to shake the misery that follows you like a cloud long after you’ve turned that final page. But then there are the books that go one step further: the books that are so bleak, so miserable, so completely tragic that you gain a new appreciation for your own life. You might reconnect with family you thought you’d never forgive; you might gain the motivation to chase your dreams; you might get involved with a social justice movement and help make the world a better place. You might even change your whole life around.
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